An Enlightenment proposal for music therapy: Richard Brocklesby on music, spirit, and the passions

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Abstract

In 1749, the London physician Richard Brocklesby (1722-1797) published his Reflections on Antient [sic] and Modern Musick, an essay that not only sought to compare these practices in terms of their effects, but also to gather evidence supporting the use of music in treating mania and other mental diseases. As might be expected, Brocklesby's discussion of music therapy has already received attention by authors looking back to the origins of this practice, not least because he offers an account of a successful musical cure that took place in his own time (Rorke, 2001). My chapter, however, seeks to broaden the discussion of the Reflections, in order to show how Brocklesby's projected musical cures fit into his larger worldview, one that was influenced as much by Plato and other ancient philosophers as it was by modern thinkers such as Isaac Newton and his followers. Brocklesby's argument was essentially that music acted as a link between the mind and body and therefore could restore their intrinsic harmony, a connection that was mediated by the animal spirits, which also served as the vehicle of the passions. The movements and proportions of music could arouse or quell the passions by their effect on these (imaginary) spirits, which flowed through the nerves and brain and acted as the agent for the mind or soul. I show how his account of music in antiquity led him to reflect on the way that music was perceived and responded to in his own time, both as a stimulus to mental and bodily action, and as a source of esthetic pleasure through the cultivation of musical taste.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-185
Number of pages27
JournalProgress in Brain Research
Volume217
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

Keywords

  • Brocklesby (Richard)
  • Music
  • Music therapy
  • Nerves
  • Passions
  • Plato
  • Spirit

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